This year could see warehouse door issues accentuated, as from April rented commercial buildings will be required to adopt a more energy efficient minimum rating of E, rather than worst energy ratings of F and G. Failure to comply will mean failure to rent such premises, but industrial buildings will remain exempt. There are, of course, many aspects to warehouse energy conservation but top of the concern list is probably doors, for they have the potential to waste more energy than any other equipment. How they are specified, bought and maintained will all have a bearing on their effectiveness. Best, long-term results will only be achieved if buyers choose a reliable manufacturer, with a good, aftersales service record, preferably a member of ALEM, but buyers also have a responsibility to give full operational data on what they expect from their door operations, taking into account any future changes that look likely.

Buyers should keep abreast of latest door improvements because these could improve energy, safety and productivity issues. But any starting point, particularly for big, existing installations, should start with an energy audit of current consumption which can then be compared with any new proposal from a supplier, and the better major suppliers can help here by providing free audits.

Door costs, of course, will always be important to potential buyers, not least because the popular, fastaction roller doors are not cheap, but the key point to remember is the estimated ROI, which can vary widely, dependent on quality issues and control mechanisms. Some internal high speed PVC roller doors can pay for themselves within months through energy savings alone.

In certain operating conditions, like cold stores, doors become more critical, but so can product reliability. Uninsulated PVC doors would give poorer energy savings than insulated, fast, deep-freeze doors like those from Efaflex, which use an Active Framework Mechanism that ensures the door leaf remains pushed against a seal around the door frame when closed to give an almost hermetic seal.

On door control mechanisms there is a wide choice, each with their pros and cons, and all affecting safety and productivity issues. These include: 1) the simplest option of push button control, 2) pull switch, 3) remote transmitters, usually radio or infrared, which can be hand-held or mounted on a forklift, and 4) the fully automated opening based on forklift detection using inductive loops, photo cells or radar detectors.

The simplest, push button option is easy to install and understand but efficiency is compromised because a forklift driver must spend time dismounting, walking to the wall and back and then remounting. A pull switch is a step up but there is a risk of the cord being caught by passing trucks. The remote control option has no external wiring so installation is simplified but the driver does have to activate the transmitter early enough for the door to open before the truck reaches it to avoid any risk of collision. If maximum operational efficiency and safety issues are paramount the fully automated door controls, based on inductive loops, photo cells and radar detectors should be considered.